How to spot the right VC investor. According to Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter and now Square, it's all about looking for engagement. In the early days of seeking funding for Twitter, Dorsey knew that things were going poorly because the VCs he met with weren't grilling him hard enough. But he says that when he met Fred Wilson, he knew that Twitter had found a match. "Wilson asked the tough questions about the long term goals for the company. He wanted to know the product plan, he was aggressive in his questioning, but he got it," Dorsey says (via TechCrunch). Learn more about where VCs are putting their money in 2010.
How Arianna Huffington built a media empire. Love her or hate her, at least give Arianna Huffington credit for the success she has had with the Huffington Post. Launched in 2005 as a rebuttal to the Drudge Report, the site has moved beyond its political focus to include such lifestyle topics as food, entertainment, and sports. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the site has an estimated value of $100 million and has nearly 11 million visitors per month. The Journal has an interesting Q&A with Arianna and her co-founder, Ken Lerer, on how they managed to grow the site and what their plans are for the future. Particularly interesting is Huffington's thoughts on working with a partner. According to her, "I had always worked on my own, but found you can do not just twice as much but 200 times as much when you have a good partner. It's this very creative connection. And having a partner definitely allows you to take more risks." For a closer look at how she launched her business, check out Inc.'s profile of Arianna Huffington.
Paranoia over plastics: the profit potential. Fears over the side effects of Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been shown to cause cancer, early-onset puberty, and other problems, is already spurring innovative startups, with a potential profit for their venture capital investors, reports Alexander Haislip in peHUB. And no wonder, BPA, which is used as a binding and strengthening agent in manufacturing plastics, is a $6 billion industry. Haislip says there isn't that much scalability in startups selling BPA-free products like water bottles and food containers. But entrepreneurs working on a new way of making plastics from renewable resources may have an edge. In the past five years, VCs have invested more than $500 million into 65 startups working to make plastic more environmentally friendly. Challenges of working in this market are onerous. But a theme is emerging, says Haislip: "Tomorrow's biggest successes are going to be driven by materials."
Start-ups hit 14 year high. Blame (or thank) the recession, as laid-off workers struck out on their own last year in numbers not seen for more than a decade. Read Write Web flags a study by the Kauffman foundation that reports that the rate of entrepreneurship in 2009 reached its highest level in 14 years. The study also contains interesting nuggets: For instance that Oklahoma and Montana boast the highest rates of entrepreneurship, while Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Minnesota bring up the rear.
Will NYC be the next tech start-up hub? It will if Mayor Bloomberg has anything to do with it. Yesterday, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, the Mayor announced that New York's new Entrepreneurial Fund would be investing $300,000 in the tech start-up My City Way (via CNNMoney). The fund, which currently has $22 million to invest in fledgling tech companies, is intended to lure entrepreneurs to the Big Apple. The city partnered with FirstMark Capital to create the fund. "If you have an idea, New York City is the city for you," Bloomberg said at the conference. "In New York City, we understand that innovation drives economic growth. We're nurturing information technology." As the lucky recipient of the fund's first investment, My City Way will continue to develop city guide applications, complete with restaurant listings, Wi-Fi locations and restroom locators, among other services. The guide company, which launched in December 2009 with the NYC Way app, has now spread to Los Angeles, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston and London, with hopes of reaching 40 more cities in the next few months.